A Lancashire Fusilier’s First World War
by Norman Hall, edited by his granddaughter
published by P3 Publications in 2020
paperback ISBN 978 0 9934889 2 4
344 pages including endnotes and index. Illustrated.
This is a splendid book; the result of much hard work by Patricia (Tricia) Rothwell. It is mainly based on the first three of five volumes of the original diary produced by her grandfather Norman Hall, which are now held by the Imperial War Museum. They cover his time with the 2/5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers up to and including September 1916. The content of the last two volumes, about his service with the 1/5th Battalion thereafter, are summarised. The diary was not written at the time, apparently being compiled from 1919 and up to 1928, so does have the benefit (and possibly filter) of hindsight and reference to some published work.
Normall Hall was born in Bury in 1892 and after attending the local grammar school went to Owens College (Manchester University) to graduate in chemistry. He went on to work for Lever Brothers both before and after the war. While at university Norman had been a member of the Officer Training Corps, but, keen to get involved, he enlisted into the ranks of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) in early September 1914. Within a few days he was interviewed as a potentially suitable man to become an officer – and he says that on 14 October 1914 he was astonished to read in the newspaper that he had been commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Tricia Rothwell’s treatment of the diary leaves it mainly unchanged, with only minor details omitted and corrections of spellings and punctuation for consistency. She greatly enhances it with additional information and observations in the form of copious footnotes and illustration. Her grandfather was placed into what was initially called the 5th Reserve Battalion but which eventually became the 2/5th. He served as a junior officer through its training at home, move to France in May 1915 and its subsequent service as part of the 51st (Highland) and then 55th (West Lancashire) Divisions. Norman’s narrative is illuminating, with many individuals and minor incidents being discussed as well as the major movements and actions experienced by his battalion. The diary will be of particular interest to those studing the Battle of the Somme, for he devotes many pages to the period up to his wounding on 9 September 1916. Norman goes on to describe his medical evacuation and the final parts of the book summarise later events.
The books is produced on high quality paper, with use of colour for some maps and a diagram. Many other illustrations are black and white, including a plentiful selection of family and regimental portraits. The sans serif font used is not one of my favourites and I found the page layout (with very narrow edge margins) made it less easy to read than it may have been, but these are personal preferences and should in no way detract from what is, overall, a terrific piece of work, a good read and a useful reference for future use.